Beyond Literary Landscapes—Poetic Justice

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week, we focus on a lesser-known literary device, but one that is nonetheless quite powerful and thought provoking, namely poetic justice.  In particular, this literary theme “occurs at the conclusion of a novel or play if and when good characters are rewarded and bad characters are punished.”  Often, works focused on “poetic justice … have happy endings with moral lessons for the reader to learn.”


Some iconic texts, which consider the theme of literary justice, include Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, and Inferno by Dante Alighieri.


These works are set in ancient Greece, England, and Italy.


Many of these novels, poems, and plays take place in the 13 century BCE and 14 and 15 centuries CE.


These diverse works may be of interest to AU learners in the ENGL program hoping to broaden their knowledge of more obscure literary devices, as well as those interested in philosophically focused texts.  In addition, themes of poetic justice may be appealing those students enrolled in PHIL, SOCI and CRJS courses.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to poetic justice are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in PHIL 240: Ancient Philosophy: The Rise of Reason in a Mythic World, a junior-level three-credit course, which allows students to “come out of this course not only having learned from the great philosophers of ancient Greece in whose shadow the history of Western thought has played out, but … also gain a different vantage point from which to critically assess the intellectual life and cultural productions of modern societies.”  (Although no prerequisites are required for this course, students are advised to have completed previous credits in PHIL courses).

Students can also consider SOCI 305: Sociology and Crime, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “covers a wide range of topics related to crime and the criminal code in Canada.”  (No prerequisites are required for this course).  Happy reading!